Burekup watermelon farmer loving life on the land
Ten years ago, Burekup watermelon farmer Simon Torissi took a punt and planted a melon patch.
Today, he spends his summers harvesting as one of the biggest melon growers in the South West.
And he juggles it all while working in the mining industry.
For Simon, it has been a surprising but happy turn of events.
“It was just to have a bit of fun, I wasn’t planning on doing this,” he said. “If you’d have asked me back then if I’d be growing this many I would’ve gone, ‘you’re dreamin’.”
There are now three melon patches on the property growing three different varieties, requiring a team of about 15 people to help harvest over summer.
Simon said his success was due to a mixture of good soil, good timing, knowledge and hard work.
“The first time we planted we had a really good yield,” he said.
This is old spud country – it was new ground that hadn’t been cultivated for 30-40 years.
“The market’s really hard to break into and it just happened that there was another grower retiring (when we planted) so there was a void there that we could fill.”
While he has been doing it for the past 10 years, he said there was always something new to learn.
“You think you’re onto it but you always get caught out,” he laughed.
“You think you know what you’re doing but it’s not straightforward. When to plant, what variety to plant, soil nutrition … monitoring for pests and disease – what to do when.”
While the maintenance supervisor has spent the past 20 years working on the mines, growing fruit was not a foreign concept to the father of two.
Hailing from a Donnybrook cattle farm and orchard, Simon sold his first haul of melons at just 13 years of age.
I remember, I must’ve been 13 when I was begging Dad, me old boy to plough up some ground for me so I could plant some stuff.
“And he goes ‘it’s too bloody late, you’re bloody mad’,” he laughed.
“He ploughed up a bit of ground for me and I grew this crop … I was 13 and I cleaned up at 80 cents a kilo and both my older brothers were whinging I had all this cash.”
Now, the venture has come full circle, with his kids helping him out in the field and earning some pocket money.
While the majority of the harvest makes its way to the Canningvale Market, a portion is kept local as well, Simon dropping them to schools and Foodbank and selling some fresh from the farm at a roadside stall. The family’s pet cow also enjoys a watermelon or two.
While unexpected, Simon said he had enjoyed the adventure watermelon growing had taken him on and was happy they took the punt all those years ago.
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